1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: V-berth Cabinetry Storage Boxes

Summer has officially arrived, but for more than a month it’s been miserable in the tent. When it’s a beautiful day outside, it’s hellishly hot and humid in that plastic bubble. Using fans helps how I feel, but epoxy has a very short pot life even when I use the slowest hardener. It’s very frustrating. That said, I’m still making progress in the V-berth.

Time to install the bed foundation

Glued and screwed gussets

Mark the cabinet cut lines and rabbets in the big bed foundation panel

I use aluminum angle to guide the router

The track saw extrusions work well as a router guide, too

I use this handy little plunge saw with only 1/16″ kerf to cut the cabinet opening

Then I finish the corners with a jigsaw

This will make a nice cabinet door

Cut the last rabbets on the back-side of the foundation panel

The panel is ready for installation

But first, I’m going to make the cabinet box and attach it to the panel. I considered doing it after I installed the panel, but I think it’ll be easier if the box is installed first.

The back of the cabinet box

Trimmed here and there to clear the hull framing

After cutting the rest of the cabinet box panels, I took them home and varnished them. I’ve got a bunch of cans of Varathane, lacquer, Minwax polyurethane and Helmsman Spar Varnish I’d like to use up. The inside of these cabinets is a good place for it.

3 coats of Minwax Helmsman Spar Varnish looks pretty good

Dry fit…looks pretty good!

Dry-fit the box…we’re ready for epoxy

Glued and clamped together

The hot temps in the tent make it challenging to glue the box together. The epoxy kicks really fast. First I wet out the rabbets and the matching panel edges with straight epoxy, then I add wood flour to the epoxy and apply it over the wetted out areas. Next, I fit the pieces together and clamp until I get some of the thickened epoxy squeezing out of the joint. Then I wipe down the joint with alcohol to remove any excess epoxy, and it’s on to the next piece until it’s all assembled.

Next day, epoxy the joints and mate the box to the panel

Support the ends of the panel and weigh down the middle

I have one more box to make, then I’ll insulate everything and install the cabinets.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More V-berth Cabinetry Storage Boxes

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More V-berth Cabinetry

Things are moving along in the V-berth, though not as fast as I’d like. In other words, it’s about the same as since I first started this project!


The panels fit nicely

Next, I need to prepare them for installation.

With the panel square to the floor…

…it’s not square to the wall!

The V-berth bathroom wall was cut, fitted, and installed by a clown of a contractor who was working for me a few years ago. Since he didn’t install the wall with the leading edge perpendicular to the floor, everything that attaches to it is off. And that means it takes more work to make things not look too goofy. I’ll eventually put a piece of veneer here, but it would have been nice to have the panel installed right from the start.

Mahogany 1″ x 1″ cleats will back up each joint.

The vertical cleat used to be part of the original mahogany toe rails that I recycled.

All framed out

Looking good!

Bed base panel is level but too tall

Normally, you wouldn’t use a level on a boat. But I’ve leveled the boat by adjusting the boat stands with a 4′ level on the floor. I recheck it every few months to make sure it hasn’t settled and thrown off the level.

Knocking the top off of the panel

Bed base gussets tie all the panels together

Remove the panels and cut the insulation

Wetted out and edge sealed with epoxy, then insulation is pressed in place

The marked off area and the bottom edges will get epoxy sealed

Floor cleats are glued and screwed in place

With sticky epoxy everywhere and super high temps in the tent, I called it a wrap.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: V-berth Cabinetry Storage Boxes

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Fitting the V-berth Cabinets

With the V-berth walls finally installed, the rest of the cabinetry in the room is coming together pretty quickly.

The aft deck plywood pile shrinks a bit more

Mahogany panels are pre-finished with ICA base and top coat

I had these panels painted with ICA a year or two (or three?) ago. They’ve been awaiting installation for too long.

Bed base panel fits well

The salon plywood stack gets one sheet shorter

The mahogany plywood stack in the salon is my official progress meter. The shorter the stack gets, the closer I am to finishing the refit. I’m very pleased when it gets shorter. Hopefully, that’ll happen at a faster rate from now on.

EZ-One track saw table makes it easy to break down 4×8 sheets

With the EZ-One track saw system, it’s the saw that moves, not the panel. So unlike a conventional table saw, you don’t need a huge amount of space. The track also ensures perfectly straight cuts exactly where you want them. You don’t have to worry about keeping the panel tight up against a fence or kickbacks. It’s a great tool for this kind of work.

Angled cuts are also super easy with the EZ-One

Not a bad fit…needs a bit of trimming

A snip here, a slice there…

Nice and square!

Three panels fit nicely

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: More V-berth Cabinetry.

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Starboard V-berth Mahogany Wall Panel

With the port side V-berth wall panel installed, doing the Starboard side was relatively easy. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I had to use my phone to take most of these pictures. Even with much higher resolution, the phone camera pictures always end up grainier and fuzzier than my old Fujifilm digital camera.

Good fit!

I”m using three clamps to hold the panel in place, but two of those just support it vertically. Only one clamp–the one at the porthole opening–is actually clamping the panel to the boat. And that’s all it takes to get good contact along the leading edge, where it meets the forward bulkhead.

Add another cleat to support the back edge

Final fit checks out…time to cut the porthole opening

Marked from the outside and ready to cut

Not a bad fit

The panel is flush with the porthole opening at the top, but it’s proud of the opening at the bottom. This creates a situation where the porthole potentially won’t have a good seal. It’s supposed to meet up flush with the aluminum porthole opening. Instead, I’ll have to rely on sealant and an epoxy saturated panel edge to keep water from ever coming through here.

The problem: poor fit from Chris Craft

The plywood backing panels aren’t square to the porthole opening. Instead, they’re angled to (sort of) meet up with the hull ribs. It looks like the carpenters at Chris Craft tried to compensate for a poor porthole install. If the welder had done a better job squaring up the 6″ pipe they use for these porthole openings, it would have made things a lot better and easier for everyone.

Remove even more aluminum rib material below the porthole

I’ve removed about 3/8″ of rib depth just below the porthole opening to smooth out the transition from the porthole opening plywood surrounds to the mahogany cleat attached to the rib. With that much material removed, I’m finally getting good contact between the new mahogany panel and the original porthole plywood surround. But, in retrospect, the best approach would have been to  cut out the porthole opening back when the hull was sandblasted and reposition it. My hindsight remains absolutely perfect!!

Rib contact points are marked

Time for insulation

That Buffalo Batt material is very nice to work with. Once I had the insulation fitted, I removed it and wetted out the back of the panel with epoxy, then reinstalled the insulation and pressed it to the panel with scraps of plywood. The next day, it was ready to install.

Ready for installation

I wetted out the edges and contact points with epoxy

All of the mahogany cleats get saturated with epoxy, too

Epoxy thickened with wood flour and cabosil in a 7:3 ratio makes strong glue

Screws around the porthole hold everything in place

Remove the epoxy that squeezes out with alcohol on a rag

Next day, time for the clamps to come off!


With the curved walls finally done, I can finally get going on the cabinetry.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Fitting the V-berth Cabinets

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: My Life WAS An Old-School Country Western Song

This isn’t directly related to my Roamer refit, but it’s a contributor to the fact that I will not be getting the boat splashed this year.

A while back I wrote about how My Life Is An Old-School Country Western Song, one of the key factors of which is that a pickup truck must break down. A month or so after I got the transmission fixed in the new-to-me Nissan Frontier, which was part of the inspiration for that post, the missus reported that fuel economy in the truck was getting pretty bad. On our way down to the house one evening, the engine started sounding awful–like it was coming apart–and power dropped to almost nothing. I let off on the throttle until it sounded less grenade-like, at which point 20mph was top speed (35 going downhill), and when climbing hills it went down to 10mph. At idle, it sounded perfectly normal though it had a bit of a vibration. We eventually made it home, and I started looking into what might have gone wrong. All of the fluids checked out, but a compression test revealed strange results: 150psi on the three driver’s side cylinders, 200psi on the back passenger-side cylinder, but the center cylinder was not good at all.

120psi…same result tested four times

The front passenger-side spark plug is inaccessible without pulling the intake manifold, but I already knew enough–the engine was in the process of dying. This truck with the low miles it’s got on it should still have high compression, so that one cylinder with 120psi was especially disturbing. The three on the driver’s side were consistent, but lower than they really should be with less than 100,000 miles on the truck.

Cue my theme song:

Truth be told, a light on the dash had been on since I bought the truck, and the codes it was tripping indicated the catalytic converters were shot. That was also a strange thing to happen with such low miles, but I wasn’t terribly worried…emissions inspection wasn’t due for another six months. When the transmission was being diagnosed, the shop also confirmed that the catalytic converters were shot. When I picked the truck up, the manager reiterated that the catalytic converters needed replacing. I downloaded the Torque OBDII code scanner app and a bluetooth sender while the tranny was being rebuilt, so I hooked that up to see what it had to say. Sure enough, the engine was still throwing cat codes but there were a bunch of additional ones, too. Figuring that the cats would have to come out anyway if I was replacing the engine, I went under the truck one weekend and got to work.

New muffler clamp on the crossover pipe

No doubt about it, the transmission shop had to remove at least the crossover pipe to get the transmission out.

Fresh dents on the exhaust pipe

You have to smack that pipe pretty hard to dent it. And according to the internet, one of the worst things for catalytic converters (after leaded gas) is hard blows.

A freshly removed bolt is also missing

It was around this time that I started wondering about the skills and practices of that transmission shop. Then I removed the catalytic converters.

Uh…Houston, we have a problem

If you ever wondered what’s inside a catalytic converter…

The ceramic matrix had disintegrated, mostly into powder

The pictures above are of the driver’s side cat, which was completely destroyed. Chunks of the ceramic matrix and ceramic powder had broken off and shot down the exhaust pipe to the second catalytic converter, completely plugging it. On the passenger’s side, the matrix was starting to come apart but hadn’t completely undone itself yet. With the cats off the truck, it fired right up and though it was loud it didn’t sound like the engine was coming apart. I put new cats in, reset all the codes with the Torque app, and–lo and behold–the truck runs pretty well.

My theory is that while the cats were already gone before going to the tranny shop, the hammer blows on the exhaust pipe fractured the ceramic matrix. Vibrations from driving it for a month broke the matrix apart, and the more it self-destructed the finer the particles became. Eventually the rear cats got plugged with bits and pieces of the front cats’ ceramic matrix, and that was when the engine lost all power: the exhaust had nowhere to go.

Even after replacing the cats, the truck still had the same low compression. I read somewhere that these engines have no Exhaust Gas Recirculation system per se, instead they have quite a bit of valve overlap at certain throttle settings that draws exhaust back into the cylinders for another go-round. When the valves overlap and a catalytic converter has failed catastrophically, ceramic particles from the cats can be sucked back into the cylinders. I assumed that’s what happened here and was considering filing a claim against the transmission shop. But since the cats were already throwing codes before it went to the tranny shop, my case wasn’t as clear cut as I’d have liked. I kept driving the truck and just recently did another compression check on the five cylinders I can access. GOOD NEWS! Compression is 190~200psi on all cylinders!

My theory is that ceramic particles had gotten as far as the exhaust valves, holding them open just enough on certain cylinders to let compression leak past. Over a couple thousand miles, the particles got worn down or blown out, restoring compression to where it should be. The truck fixed itself! I’m hoping that good mojo will spill over onto my boat project, too!

With that drama out of the way, it’s time to get back on that Roamer refit. There’s another beautiful mahogany panel that needs to be installed in the V-berth.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Starboard V-berth Mahogany Wall Panel

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Port V-berth Mahogany Wall Panel

With the V-berth mahogany panels clear coated and insulated, the next step is installation.

Base coated, insulated, and edge sealed

Edges fully wetted out with epoxy

Mahogany cleats get wetted out with epoxy, too

Epoxy thickened with wood flour goes on next

Once the thickened epoxy gets applied to all contact surfaces, everything is a sticky mess and no pictures can be taken. Once the panel is positioned, clamped, and secured with fasteners, I wipe up the sticky mess with alcohol on rags…lots and lots of rags. The secret is not to smear the stuff around. Get some epoxy on the rag, fold it over, get more on, fold again, and when there’s no more clean parts of the rag, throw it out and get a new one. I keep wiping and wiping until all of the sticky residue is gone, which I confirm by holding a flashlight at an angle to the panel. I check and re-check with the flashlight about a half-dozen times, because sometimes more epoxy oozes out and other sticky bits just get missed. Finally, once it’s all wiped up, off come the gloves and it’s time to call it a day.

Glued, screwed, and clamped

In the forward-most upper corner, I had to use two sticks as a lever to push the panel into place. There’s no way to get a clamp or screws in there, but with plenty of epoxy on the backside it’ll be nice and solid by tomorrow.

Give me a long enough lever, and I can make a stubborn plywood panel conform to a complex curve!

Very nice fit on the back edge–no clamps or screws required

The panel is clamped, glued, and screwed at the porthole opening

The panel orientation at the porthole opening is critical, since misalignment can throw off the fit of the porthole itself. The original porthole installer at Chris Craft did a poor job aligning it. The porthole was inset quite a ways from the frames, so I had to do a lot of grinding when I was preparing to fit the panels to bring the frame in close enough for the plywood panel to conform. With lots of screws and the clamp, it looks like this will work out well.

Keen-eyed observers will note what appears to be (and, in fact, is) an upside-down run in the pic above. These panels only got the first of four coats of ICA base clear applied, and the painter lays it on heavy. We do that because epoxy can be wiped off of finished wood, but it soaks into unfinished wood and discolors it. We’ll sand the whole V-berth, eliminating all the runs and surface imperfections, then hit it with another four coats of base, then sand again before applying two coats of semi-matte topcoat.

Next day, the clamps come off

I know, I know…the veneers don’t line up between the two panels. You know what? I don’t care! 🙂

Not a bad joint

I think I’ll use 1/4 round mahogany trim to cover the joint and bungs

Behind the panel it’s very nicely insulated

That’s a wrap for the port side V-berth panel.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: My Life WAS An Old-School Country Western Song

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Insulating Mahogany Wall Panels

With the stack of mahogany wall panels finally painted with eight coats of ICA base clear then topped with two coats of semi-matte, the next step involves insulating the back-side of each panel. The hull, decks, and cabin top are already insulated with spray foam, but I’m also using Buffalo Batts to insulate the back of each wall panel that faces the hull to make the boat more comfortable all year-round. Insulating each panel adds a lot of time to the process, but I think it’ll be worth it.

1.5″ thick Buffalo Batt provides R3 insulation value

Cut out areas where the panel contacts frames and mahogany cleats

Wet out the panel with epoxy

The epoxy serves two purposes: it seals the panel, giving it stability over time, and it acts like contact cement to hold the insulation in place and tight to the panel. I kept the epoxy away from the areas where the panel will contact the mahogany cleats that are attached to the aluminum ribs. I’ll wet that out and edge seal the panel, then apply wood flour-thickened epoxy when I bond it in place.

Position the insulation, then weigh it down

Same process for the aft stateroom transom cabinet panels

Aft stateroom porthole surround panels get the same treatment

Done insulating…time to let the sticky epoxy cure

Next day, epoxy is cured

Headboard shelf panel should stay warm to the touch, even in winter

Insulated on one side, pretty mahogany on the other

Ready to install

Buffalo Batt: R3 insulation value in 1.5″ of woven fabric that doesn’t absorb water or itch

That’s it for the insulating. Now for the fun part!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Port V-berth Mahogany Wall Panel